November 21st, 2013
10:04 AM ET

Rule Change Vote Could Limit GOP's Ability to Block Nominees

Supporters of a move to end filibusters of presidential nominees picked up a key ally Tuesday.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a veteran California Democrat, says she has changed her mind and now supports using the so-called "nuclear option" – changing Senate rules over the objections of Republicans to prevent those filibusters. She said she has been persuaded to take the extraordinary step because the public is anxious to have Washington work and "you can't do it if the President can't get a cabinet, a sub-cabinet, judges, commissioners." Filibusters require 60 votes to set aside, a high hurdle in the narrowly divided Senate.

The longtime member of the Judiciary Committee said blocking nominees has "never been as bad as it is now" and blamed "politics" for the GOP-led filibusters of three recent nominees to the important District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals.

Feinstein made her decision known to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid when he called her about the issue recently.

It's unclear if proponents now have the 51 votes necessary to change the rules. Reid refused to answer that question at a news conference Tuesday, and he didn't indicate whether he'd actually carry out the "nuclear option."

Typically, 67 votes are needed to make a change in the Senate rules.

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